Preparations under way for St Patrick’s Day programme in Washington

Officials indicate St Patrick’s Day festivities in Washington will be prioritised even if government-formation talks are ongoing

Preparations are under way for the annual St Patrick’s Day programme in Washington despite the political stalemate arising from the general election.

Advanced discussions have taken place between Irish officials and the White House about a meeting between the taoiseach and US president Donald Trump in the oval office on Thursday, March 12th, followed by the annual shamrock ceremony in the White House.

It is also expected that the speaker’s lunch on Capitol Hill will take place that day, which will be hosted by house speaker Nancy Pelosi. Breakfast with vice- president Mike Pence at his residence in North West Washington is also in the process of being scheduled with the taoiseach of the day.

With the next vote to elect a taoiseach expected to take place on March 5th, it is unclear if a new leader will be in place in time for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations a week later.


It is envisaged that Leo Varadkar will make the trip to Washington if he remains in the position of taoiseach at that time.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald is due in Washington the week beginning March 10th, regardless of the outcome of government-formation talks. Ms McDonald attended the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the White House last year, and was also guest of honour at Sinn Féin’s main fundraising dinner in New York in November.

There will also be a strong representation of politicians from Northern Ireland that week. First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill will be the guests of honour at the annual St Patrick’s Day breakfast hosted by the Northern Ireland Bureau in Washington.

It marks the first time in three years the two leading politicians from the North will attend that event in their official capacity following the restoration of the power-sharing executive.



Government officials indicated that the St Patrick’s Day festivities in Washington will be prioritised even if government-formation talks are ongoing. However, the programme may be shorter than in previous years when the taoiseach typically visited at least one other US city.

One possibility being explored is a visit to Boston following the March 12th main programme of events. The city is due to hold its annual parade on Sunday, March 15th.

An event is also scheduled at the United Nations on Tuesday, March 10th, as part of Ireland’s bid to win a seat on the UN Security Council, which could also be attended by the taoiseach or a senior minister.

Another event scheduled to take place in Washington during the week beginning March 10th is the annual Ireland Funds dinner. This year the philanthropic body, which raises money for organisations across the island of Ireland, will honour Ms Pelosi.

Peter King, a New York congressman who is retiring this year, will also receive a special recognition award at the March 11th dinner, which is expected to be attended by the taoiseach and several members of Congress.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent